Jess at Lies and Fish and Ed Chang are trying to get us Digerati at UMD fired up for a panel at the SLSA conference. First, I think we SHOULD go to this conference as a group and put UMD on the map. Second, the following thoughts are ones I’ve been throwing around since Brian Richardson (bless his heart) told me: “Hmmmm. . . narrative and the digital archive? No. I wouldn’t want to read a paper on that.” Well, I would, so here the following goes (oh, and comments are welcome):
Lev Manovitch calls the database and narrative “natural enemies,” maintaining that the database is a “list of items” while narrative “creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items (events).” He maintains that “a database can support narrative, but there is nothing in the logic of the medium itself that would foster its generation.” Yet, how different is an electronic database from Derrida’s archive, which he asserts “produces as much as it records [an] event”? In an archive in which the database of items is limitless, does narrative play a role? Is narrative fostered as objects are recorded or collected? How? This paper will discuss the relationship of narrative to the database in digital literary archives such as Dickinson Electronic Archive, Walt Whitman Archive, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture
Manovitch, Lev (2001). Then Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
Derrida, Jacques (1996). Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 16-17.
Dickinson Electronic Archive: http://www.emilydickinson.org
Walt Whitman Archive: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/